Although she did not win the news station’s Teacher of the Year award Wednesday night, Lisa Hillstrom, a third grade teacher at Lakewood Elementary School, was excited to have been named Teacher of the Month by ABC10 in June 2018.
“They couldn’t even remember the last time a Lodi teacher was nominated or selected,” Hillstrom said.
A student and her parent nominated Hillstrom, she said, although she did not find out until she had already been selected as Teacher of the Month last year.
“That was a pretty great surprise,” Hillstrom said.
Hillstrom’s teaching career began roughly 21 years ago, she said. After teaching for five years, she took a 10-year hiatus to raise her children. She has been teaching in Lodi Unified School District for the past six years.
For Hillstrom, teaching is something of a family tradition.
“My mom actually taught at Lakewood, where I teach now, until I was born,” Hillstrom said.
Hillstrom’s father taught at Lodi High School and later at San Joaquin Delta College, she said, although it would be a while before she discovered her own love of teaching.
While she was reluctant to begin teaching at first, Hillstrom discovered her passion through working in the education department at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., she said, and later as a substitute teacher before following her parents’ advice to pursue teaching full-time.
“It was a long journey to finding out I loved it all along,” Hillstrom said.
Hillstrom has even managed to take the sales experience she gained working in the advertising department of a Santa Rosa newspaper and apply it to her classroom, she said, selling her students on the idea of education.
“I recognize that they’re the toughest sales audience I’ll ever have to pitch to,” Hillstrom said.
Those interested in pursuing teaching as a career should start by volunteering in classrooms with different ages and grades, Hillstrom said, to find which grade level best matches their abilities.
“Different people have different skill sets that can be applied to different ages,” Hillstrom said.
Hillstrom also advises prospective teachers to work as substitutes to gain experience, as she says teaching is not the sort of job one can simply leave at the office.
“The kids’ lives and their stories come home with you,” Hillstrom said. “It can be exciting, and it can be sad.”
Although she felt honored to be recognized for her efforts, Hillstrom felt compelled to share the credit with her fellow staff members at Lakewood Elementary.
“Because we all work so well together and we have such a great principal, we’re able to do a great job for our kids,” Hillstrom said.